Friday, 30 December 2022

mmxxii (10. 369)

As this calendar year draws to a close and we look forward with anticipation to 2023, we again take time to reflect on a selection of some of the events that took place in 2022. Thanks as always for visiting. We’ve made it through another wild year together, and we’ll see this next one through together as well.

january: Violent protests erupt in Almaty in response to the Kazakh government ending fuel subsidies and lift price caps on petrol and heating oil, prompting a coalition of former-Soviet military forces to intervene. The US reflects on the one year anniversary of the Capitol insurrection and the fragile state of democracy.

Legendary actor Sidney Portier passed away, aged 94, as did singer Ronnie Spector (*1943). Tragically, seventeen individuals are killed in an apartment fire in the Bronx. Disturbingly the US Supreme Court blocks vaccination mandates for private companies-upholding the requirement for public sector workers. Two Democratic senators-who derailed president Biden’s Build Back Better plan-are also opposed to changing legislative rules to overturn the filibuster, allowing Republicans to block the enactment of a voter-rights protection bill. There are widespread calls for the resignation of Boris Johnson over revelations of work-dos during strict lockdown. The Queen strips Prince Andrew of his titles and military leadership roles over his association with sex pest Jeffrey Epstein and allegations of sexual assault. Russia seems poised to re-invade Ukraine, first undermining their cyber capabilities.  The Pacific island group volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haʻapai erupted violently, triggering tsunami waves halfway across the world in California and Nova Scotia. Performer Meatloaf has passed away, aged seventy-four as did comedian and actor Louie Anderson at sixty-eight.  Zen Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh who protested the Vietnam War and introduced mindfulness to the West dies aged ninety-five.

february: The leader of a defeated though resurgent ISIS, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quarshi, is killed in a US airstrike in Syria.

Tensions continue to mount in Ukraine over the spectre of an Russian invasion, with the US suggesting that Russia will stage a false-flag operation as a pretext to advance.   Truckers in Canada protesting COVID restrictions, mandatory passports blockade Ottawa; separately Justin Treudeu, Jacinda Arden and Keir Starmer need police intervention to be rescued from rioters.  The Queen celebrates her Platinum Jubilee with seventy years on the throne.  So called Canadian Freedom Convoys of big rig truckers shut down three key border crossings into the US, causing knock-on effects including factory shut-downs.  Provocatively, Russia begins military exercises in Belarus and on the Black Sea. 
Two powerful, successive windstorms, Ylenia and Zeynep, cause damage through a corridor in German after wreaking havoc in England and Wales (as Dudley and Eunice).  The Candy Bomber, Gail Halvorsen (previously) passes away, aged 101.  As the UK announces the relaxation of legal measures to combat the spread of the COVID virus, the palace announced that the Queen has contracted a mild case of it.  Putin recognises the sovereignty of break-away Ukrainian territories Donetsk and Luhansk and deploys peace-keepers to the regions nearly eight years to the day after applying a similar tactics to Crimea. 

march: Numerous Western companies suspend operations in Russia as sanctions intensify.  Shelling of civilian targets across Ukraine shows no signs of abating though the invasion has not been the easy and instant take-over that was apparently expected. 

Inflation surges as the price for everything spikes with the price of oil.  Many news outlets suspend reporting from Russia following passage of legislation that threatened individuals with fifteen-year sentences for spreading “fake news.” Sustaining a minor infection, US supreme court justice Clarence Thomas was discharged from hospital, a week after he was admitted. The news comes as the congressional panel investigating the 6 January attack on the US Capitol sought testimony from his wife and conservative activist, Virginia Thomas, after the revelation of a text message exchange between her and the White House chief of staff, urging him to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.  People Power Party candidate is narrowly elected president of South Korea.

april:  The US Senate, after much acrimony, confirms Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. Though vice president Harris would have been the tie-breaker in the case of a fifty-fifty split, no Black woman in this forum had the chance to vote.  Viktor Orbán with fourth consecutive term as leader of Hungary. 

North Korea appears to be on the verge of resuming nuclear tests after a pause of five years, escalating regional tensions, after demolishing a symbolic hotel that held out the possibility of reconciliation. Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan was ejected by a vote of no confidence.  Hundreds die from mudslides in the Philippines and flash floods in South Africa.  Russia retaliates to the destruction of its flagship of the Black Sea fleet with renewed shelling in Kyiv and Lviv, having shifted focused to the southeastern part of Ukraine to create a corridor through rebel-held areas to Crimea and the sea.  Emmanuel Macron holds his presidency against Marine Le Pen.  Twitter agrees to sell itself to Elon Musk.  Moscow confirms Russia assault on Kyiv during visit by UN secretary-general António Guterres, meeting with the Ukrainian leader just after a summit with Putin.

may: A leaked draft opinion from US Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito suggests that the court is poised to over-turn the 1973 precedent that affords women access to abortion. 

The remaining contingent of soldiers holding Mariupol’s bulwark of resistance in the Azov steel plant have surrendered to Russian forces.   Australia’s conservative coalition government is defeated for the first time in a decade and the Labour party takes control.  A gunman espousing the Great Replacement Theory, tying into all the regressive, racist social movements in the United States, murdered ten individuals in Buffalo, New York.  A shooting at an elementary school in Texas takes twenty-one lives.  A dire shortage of baby formula in the US is on-going.  Monkeypox is spreading rampantly.  

june: the UK and the Commonwealth celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. 

Prompted by the publication of the Partygate investigation, Boris Johnson weathers a confidence vote by fellow party members but with more negative ballots than the votes that ended the ministries of Thatcher or more recently May. Portions of the January 6 select committee hearings are being televised.  The US Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood v Casey, prohibiting access to abortion in more than half of America and putting at risk same-sex marriage, gay rights and access to contraceptives. 

july: Russia takes control of the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine.  Yet another mass shooting occurs in the US, this time at an Independence Day parade in a Chicago suburb. 

Compelled by the resignation of over fifty chief ministers and secretaries (including those appointed a day and a half earlier) ultimately, cumulatively over the Chris Pincher scandal, Boris Johnson announces he will step down as leader of the Conservative Party but plans to hold on to his prime ministership until the party conference in the autumn.  Former Japanese prime minister Shinzō Abe is fatally wounded in an assassination attempt.  Actor James Caan passes away, aged 82. After massive unrest and protesters storming the presidential palace, Sri Lankan leader Gotabaya Rajapaska steps down.  After reaching a deal brokered by Turkey, the first Ukranian grain transport vessel sails into the Bosporus, bound for Lebanon.  Pioneering actor Nichelle Nichols passed away, aged eighty-nine.

august: In the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and intensifying incursions from mainland China, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan.  Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is killed by a blade-wielding drone in Afghanistan.  The conservative state of Kansas rejects a referendum to outlaw all abortions.  The FBI conducts a search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate for mishandled government documents.  The US congress passes Joe Biden’s Build Back Better act. 

Taking a cue from Belarus, the governors of Texas and Florida are bussing migrants to New York and California.  Olivia Newton-John passes away after a long battle with cancer.  Fashion designer Issey Miyake (三宅 一生) has also died, aged eighty-four.  Actor Anne Heche died after sustaining serious injuries in a car accident.  Salman Rushdie was stabbed by an assailant whilst delivering a lecture in Chautauqua, New York.  Joe Biden announces a jubilee on student debt that will positively impact millions of borrowers.  A redacted affidavit shows that over one hundred eighty classified documents were being sought at Mar-A-Lago, which Trump illegally removed when he left office.  Pakistan is devastated by heavy monsoons.  Ukraine begins a counter-insurgency to retake Kherson.  Mikhail Gorbachev passes away, aged 91.  

september: Liz Truss is chosen as new Prime Minister to replace Boris Johnson.  Queen Elizabeth II passes away, aged 96, with London Bridge protocols enacted.  Ukraine is seen to make major incursions into Russian held territories as municipal officials in Moscow and St Petersburg call for Vladimir Putin’s resignation. 

Charles III is proclaimed as new monarch as UK and Commonwealth enter a period of remembrance and mourning.  A Florida federal judge appoints a Special Master to review documents seized from Mar-a-Lago.  The UK economy tanks after Truss chancellor Kwarteng borrow more to reduce tax on business, garnering rebukes from Germany, the US and the IMF as the Pound Stirling approaches parity with the US dollar.  Iranians rage against their government after a young girl dies in custody of the morality police.  Russia appears to have sabotaged the Nordstream pipelines, rendering them unusable even if the gas is turned back on.

october: A hurricane batters Puerto Rico and Cuba, Florida and South Carolina.  Putin annexes four more regions in Ukraine though the hold is tenuous.  Coolio and Loretta Lynn pass away.  A mass shooting, knife attack takes place at a nursery in Thailand with two dozen children killed.  Joseph Biden pardons all of some six-thousand individuals charged with marijuana possession on the federal level.  Rhetoric over the use of tactical nuclear weapons by Russia is increasing. 

Ukraine damages the twenty kilometre bridge linking the annexed Crimea to the Russian mainland, a key supply route, across the Kerch strait.  In retribution, Russian attacks on civilian targets and infrastructure increase markedly.  Kwasi Kwarteng is dismissed, giving the UK four chancellors in as many months amid wide-spread calls for Liz Truss to resign.  Accomplished actor Robbie Coltrane passes away, aged 72, as does Angela Lansbury, aged 96.  Rishi Sunak becomes prime minister of the UK after being voted leader of the Tory Party. The husband of senior congressional member Nancy Pelosi is attacked by a man with a past of espousing fringe right wing theories with a hammer, the target intended to be the Speaker of the House.  Twitter is delisted from the stock exchange as Elon Musk takes over the platform.  Over one hundred and fifty individuals in Seoul are crushed in a stampede during a Halloween party in a narrow alleyway.  Citing continued Ukrainian drone attacks on its Black Sea fleet, Russia pulls out of a UN brokered arrangement to facilitate grain-shipment.

november: World leaders gather in Sharm el-Sheikh for COP27.   Ukrainian cities contend with power blackouts after Russia targets the country’s infrastructure.  Founding father of election science Sir David Butler passes away, aged 98. The anticipated repudiation of the US Democratic party failed to materialize, counter to polling and pundits’ expectations with those Republican candidates aligned with Donald Trump underperforming and falling short in the broad sense, holding the GOP bastions of Florida and Texas.  The UN announces the world population is at eight billion. 

At a ceremony at Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump announces his third candidacy for the presidency, much to the dismay of a Republican party whom cannot challenge his bid.  Artemis I launches on its way to the Moon.  Speaker Pelosi steps down as party leader in the House of Representatives.  In response to Trump announcing his intent to run for president, a move in part calculated to frustrate legal action against him, Attorney General Merrick Garland appoints a special counsel to investigate the insurrection that Trump instigated and the US Supreme Court rules that Trump must turn over years of tax returns to Congress.   Mired in controversy, the World Cup hosted by Qatar commences.  Continued Russian airstrikes on Ukrainian infrastructure and utilities have caused a near total blackout in neighbouring Moldova.  Earthquakes cause mass destruction in West Java and Turkey.   The UK Supreme Court blocks a second referendum for Scottish independence.  Fame and Flash Dance singer Irene Cara passes away, aged 63.  Demonstrations against the government and the ruling party not seen in China since Tienanmen Square erupt in China over COVID lockdown protocols and after the emergency response to an apartment fire is apparently delayed due to restrictions and added barriers to restrict movement. Fleetwood Mac singer Christine McVie dies, aged 79. 

december: Chinese authorities begin relaxing COVID prevention measures in response to protests.  The G7 nations and the European Union try to enforce further sanctions against Russia by banning oil shipments by sea and placing an upwards price cap per barrel. In response to massive protests, Iran disbands its morality police.

Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Labs announce a breakthrough in harnessing the power of nuclear fusion for energy production.  During its final session before dissolving, the January Sixth Committee recommends to the Justice Department to bring four criminal charges, including inciting insurrection, against Trump.  The Specials lead singer Terry Hall passes away, aged 63.  In his first trip abroad since the Russian invasion, Zelenskiy speaks before a joint-session of Congress in Washington, DC––appealing for continued aid from the United States.  Much of the US is pummelled by a bomb-cyclone, a monstrous winter storm that forces the cancellation of holiday travel. Bolivian police detain opposition leader Luis Fernando Camacho for his role in the 2019 protests that prompted then-president Evo Morales to resign. Putin issues a decree prohibiting the export of Russian oil to countries and organizations that adhere to the US$60-per-barrel price cap that Australia, the European Union, and the G7 member states agreed upon earlier this month. The decree will be in effect from February through the summer.  Legendary footballer who made soccer the beautiful game, Pelé, passes away, aged 82, as well as fashion icon Vivienne Westwood.


Saturday, 15 October 2022

monkey pack him rizla pon the sweet dep line (10. 226)

After topping the charts in the UK, UB40’s cover version of the 1967 Neil Diamond song reached number one in the US on this day in 1988, employing a lighter reggae-style in contrast to the somber ballad of Diamond—whom the group’s lead vocalist, Astro, only familiar with another version by Tony Tribe assumed the song credit went to a Jamaican performer called Negus Diamond. The latter very much enjoys this tribute variant and performs in the style of UB40 rather than his own.

Monday, 5 September 2022

7x7 (10. 110)

ch-ch-ch-chia: University of Virginia research team 3D prints living walls and roofs  

the road to rhûn: more interactive LOTR maps to explore—see previously  

defenestration: accident-prone energy executives  

doctor doolittle: translating non-human animal vocalisations into language with artificial intelligence 

the hunt for the golden walnut brain of ronald reagan: an adventure from John Hoare (previously)—via Things Magazine  

lady woman: a sample track from Boris Midney’s reimagining of 1979 “Evita” as a disco opera 

reefer madness: researchers make an advance in the race to save Caribbean coral, whose health also affects hurricane intensity

Thursday, 10 February 2022

the dread pirate roberts

Killed during the melee of the Battle of Cape Lopez (off the coast of modern-day Gabon) on this day in 1722, Bartholomew Roberts (*1682, also known by the Welsh monicker Barti Ddu, Black Bart) was the most successful privateer and defining figure of the Golden Age of Piracy, capturing over four hundred ships in his relatively short career and terrorising merchants in Newfoundland, the Caribbean and West Africa. Roberts and his compatriots developed one of the first Pirate Codes of Conduct that outlined pay, recompense, responsibility and punishment and flew under a variety of rogue banners that eventually came to be the familiar skull and cross-bone flag.

Wednesday, 29 December 2021

mmxxi

As this calendar draws to a close and we look forward to 2022, we again take time to reflect on a selection of some of the things and events that took place in 2021. Thanks as always for visiting. We’ve made it through another wild year together and we’ll see this next one through together as well.

 january: In the US state of Georgia’s run-off election, Democrat candidates prevail and thus switch the Senate’s controlling majority. The joint session of Congress to certify the votes of the Electoral College in favour of the Biden-Harris ticket is interrupted by a violent insurrection on the Capitol incited by Donald

Trump, yet the proceedings are resumed undeterred. For his gross incompetence and treasonous actions, the US House of Representatives impeaches Trump for a second time. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are inaugurated president and vice-president of the United States of America in a socially-distanced ceremony held on the same portico where the violent coup attempt occured two weeks prior. Across Russia, thousands protest the arrest and detention of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.  English filmmaker Michael Apted (*1941), entertainer Siegfried Fischbacher (*1939, see also last May) and baseball players Tommy Lasorda (*1927) and Hank Aaron (*1941), actress Cloris Leachman (*1926) as well as accomplished star of stage and screen Cicely Tyson (*1924) pass away.  

february: A military uprising in Myanmar wrests power from the government of Aung San Suu Kyi.  Actor Hal Holbrook (*1925) and veteran become fund-raiser who raised millions for the National Health

Service Sir Captain Thomas Moore (*1920) himself succumbed to COVID-19.   French screen-writer and director Jean-Claude Carrière (*1931) passed away, and so veteran actor Christopher Plummer (*1929). The US Senate again convenes as jury to vote on whether to acquit or prosecute Donald Trump’s impeachment.  Larry Flynt (*1942), publisher, pornographer and self-styled anti-censorship champion, passed away, as did jazz virtuoso and twenty-three-time Grammy Award winner Chick Corea (*1941).  The US Senate votes not to acquit Donald Trump a second time after his second impeachment.  A polar vortex brings severe winter storms to Texas and Mexico, leaving millions without heat and electricity has the power grid is overwhelmed.  Talk radio provocateur Rush Limbaugh (*1951)  dies after a year-long struggle with lung cancer.  Poet and activist Lawrence Ferlinghetti passes away, aged 101. Martian probe Perseverance touched down on the Red Planet to begin a search for signs of past life. The US rejoins the Paris Climate Agreement.  

march: Oprah Winfrey interviews the estranged, self-exiled Sussexes about Meghan Markle’s treatment

by the Royal Family, causing consternation and many to question the institution of the monarchyPhantom Tollbooth author Norton Juster (*1929) passed away aged ninety-one.  A container ship gets lodged in the Suez Canal, hindering global trade and could potentially be stuck for weeks.  Legislators in the American state of Georgia pass selectively restrictive laws to disenfranchise Black voters.   Children’s book author Beverly Cleary (*1916) writer of the Ramona Quimby series passed away, aged 104.  The usurping military forces in Myanmar gun down dozens of pro-democracy protesters.  Islamic rebels besiege the city of Palma in Mozambique.  Undercover operative whose missteps brought the Watergate scandal to the press and public, G. Gordon Liddy (*1930) died, aged 90, as did author Larry McMurtry (*1936) who penned Lonesome Dove, The Last Picture Show and Terms of Endearment.

april: Prince Phillip passes away, aged 99.  As tensions escalate between Russia and NATO with a troop

build-up along the border with Ukraine, US President Joe Biden proposes to meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to normalise relations and restore diplomatic ties.  The police officer who murdered George Floyd is found guilty on all charges.  Walter Mondale (*1928), former vice president under Jimmy Carter, and presidential candidate with running-mate Geraldine Ferraro passed away, aged ninety-three.  Astronaut Michael Collins (*1930) who orbited the Moon while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin explored the lunar surface passed away, aged ninety.

may: Accomplished actor Olympia Dukakis (*1931) passed away, aged eighty-nine.  Architect Helmut Jahn (*1940) behind the Messeturm in Frankfurt and the Post tower in Bonn died in a bicycle accident.  Dozens of rebel priests across German defy the Catholic church and offer benedictions to same-sex couple.  Israel airstrikes in Gaza escalate.  Actor, author, televangelist and TV’s Captain Merrill Stubing Gavin MacLeod (*1931) after suffering a long bout of ill-health.  

june: G7 leaders meet in Cornwall, in person.  A coalition government in Israel unseats Netanyahu after a

dozen years as prime minister.  The US government establishes Juneteenth as a new federal holiday though new laws to disenfranchise Black voters continues apace in many Republican controlled polities.  The space station Tiangong receives its first crew.  Software and computer security pioneer John McAfee (*1945) found dead in a Spanish jail cell awaiting extradition to the US over charges of tax evasion.  Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, was disbarred for peddling the lie that that the election was stolen from his former client.  The US government issues a declassified report to congress regarding unidentified aerial phenomenon.  A twelve storey condominium complex near Miami, Florida collapses with dozens injured and unaccounted for.  

july: Outrage as more mass-graves of indigenous pupils found at historic Canadian residential schools.  Hundreds perish from record heatwaves and wildfires along the Pacific coast of North America.  Angela Merkel makes her last official visit to the United Kingdom, addressing the Houses of Parliament, the last

foreign leader to do so since Bill Clinton in 1997.   Richard Donner (*1930), film director behind The Goonies, Superman and the Lethal Weapon franchise passed away.  England plans to fully reopen with no COVID-19 restrictions late in the month despite a resurgence in cases and the rapidly spreading Delta variant.  Jovenel Moïse, the Haitian president, was assassinated.  Continual and torrential rains exacerbated by the climate emergency caused severe flooding in western Germany and the Henan region in China.  The Special Committee on the January 6th Capitol Insurrection heard opening testimony from law enforcement on the scene of the terror attack.  Inventor and infomercial pitchman Ron Popeil (*1935) passed away.

august: The UN Panel on Climate Change issues a stark, bleak forecast for the planet’s future as a suitable place for life as we know it.  Wildfires rage throughout the Mediterranean, Siberia and the North American west coast.  As coalition forces depart, the resurgent Taliban takes several regional capitals in weeks with Kabul poised to soon collapse as authorities flee and embassies are evacuated.  A massive earthquake strikes Haiti.  Tragically, most Afghani government officials flee the country and the capital falls as the Taliban retakes power and restores the emirate after nearly two decades of warfare.  US army installations in Germany assist with Operation Allied Refuge (OAR) as thousands of Afghans are airlifted from the country.  Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts (*1941) passes away. 
Just days ahead of the deadline imposed to complete evacuation missions out of the Hamid Karzai international airport, an Islamic State affiliate and sworn enemy of the Taliban for being too Westernised, lax, undisciplined detonated twin suicide bombs outside the gates, killing dozens.  Veteran actor and advocate Ed Asner (*1929) passed away as did Jamaican musical giant Lee “Scratch” Perry (*1936).  On the sixteenth anniversary of the devastating Hurricane Katrina, a destructive storm called Ida makes landfall.  The Taliban celebrates with fireworks and firing rifles in the air the departure of the last US flight from the Kabul airport, declaring victory.

september: The legislature of the state of Texas passes a tranche of new laws curtailing voting access, restricting teaching of America’s racist past and present, mandating the national anthem at sporting events, permitting universal carry laws for firearms and doing away with licensure or training requirements and

essentially banning abortion by placing a bounty on abettors and deputising neighbours to litigate the ban against neighbours.  New Wave actor Jean-Paul Belmondo (*1933), whose roles defined the genre and called the French counterpart of Marlon Brando, James Dean and Humphrey Bogart, passed away.  El Salvador becomes first country to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender.  “Yes Sir, I Can Boogie” singer María Mendiola (*1952) of Baccara passed away in Madrid.  An effort to recall and replace Democrat governor of California fails and Gavin Newsome retains his place, though the balloting and counter-campaigns cost taxpayers of the state in excess of a quarter of a billion dollars.  The first commercial, all-amateur space tourism mission safely splashes down after three days in orbit.  Entrepreneur, inventor and computing pioneer behind the ZX Spectrum, Clive Sinclair passed away, aged 81 (*1940).  Justin Trudeau’s party retains power following national elections.  After three years under house arrest in Canada and fighting extradition to America on charges of espionage and circumventing sanctions against Iran, business executive Meng Wangzhou, daughter of the head of Chinese communications giant Huawei, is released. 

october:  US president Biden’s agenda is derailed, diminished by moderate voices in his party.  A vaccine for malaria is trialled in Africa.  Amid a growing corruption scandal, Austrian leader Sebastian Kurz

tenders his resignation, though choosing to remain leader of his political party and will retain his seat in parliament.  William Shatner, aged ninety, as a space tourist becomes the oldest human to enter the Earth’s orbit.  Attending an open-advice surgery for his constituents from Leigh-on-Sea, long-time MP David Amess was murdered by an attacker with a knife.  Former US Joint-Chief-of-Staff and Secretary of State, Colin Powell (*1937) dies from complications arising from COVID-19.  President Biden’s Build Back Better plan, under pressure from elements of his own party, is rather austerely pared back, dropping proposed benefits like universal college tuition and paid family-leave.  Garbage social media network rebrands its parent company as Meta as it prepares to build and embrace its concept of the metaverse.  A military coup in Somali plunges the country into chaos with no signs of peaceful resolution.

november: A powerful storm-flood in western Canada cuts off Vancouver from the rest of British Columbia.  Weaponised refugees massed at the EU frontier by a provoking Belarus at enormous personal

cost are slowly being repatriated to the lands they fled.  After exonerated in a gross miscarriage of justice, Republicans acclaim a teenage, white supremacist murderer as their new hero.  Award winning Broadway songwriter Stephen Sondheim passes away, aged ninety-one in the same week as Schoolhouse Rock! lyricist Dave Frishberg (*1933).  The COVID-19 Omicron-variant, first detected in South Africa, is causing major concerns as convention cases rage resurgent in Europe, poised to be more widespread and deadly than the same time a year ago.  Inflation and supply-chain issues threaten global economic recovery.  On the anniversary of its independence from the UK in 1966, Barbados becomes the world's newest republic, with Sandra Mason as the island’s president. 

december: Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows releases Power Point slide-deck that outlined options for Trump to hold on to the presidency in the chaos of the 6. January insurrection to the commission investigating the attempted coup.  Monkees singer Mike Nesmith (*1942) passes away.  An unseasonal tornado rips through western Kentucky, leaving over a hundred dead.   Gothic novelist Anne Rice (*1941 as Howard Allen Francis O’Brien) passed away.  Tensions continue to mount at the Russo-Ukraine border with Russia putting forward a litany of demands for NATO to avoid invasion.   Journalist and author Joan Didion (*1934) passed away due to complications from Parkinson’s disease.   Borders close and travel-restrictions re-imposed over truly exponential spread of the the Omicron variant; preliminary findings suggest although less lethal, hospitals and other essential services could be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers and vulnerable populations still need protection.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu (*1931), anti-apartheid hero and moral-centre, passes away aged ninety.  Sadly veteran blogger Jonco, behind Bits & Pieces, passed away quite suddenly, leaving the blogosverse a dimmer place.  On the last day of the year and just weeks short of planned celebrations for her one-hundredth birthday, beloved talent and treasure with a career spanning over eight decades, Betty White (*1922) passed away.

 



Monday, 22 November 2021

mary’s boy child

Originally composed by Jester Hairston (*1901 - 2001) for a roommate's birthday party under the title “He Pone and Chocolate Tea” and the calypso tune later adapted to a holiday song in 1956 after Mahalia Jackson’s 1954 recording “Mary’s Little Boy Child” for Walter Schumann's Hollywood Choir, re-released the following year as a single, the performance by Harry Belafonte (previously) reached and held the top spot on the UK Hit Parade on this day in 1957.  A Christmas standard since, it was the first hit single longer than four minutes and there was also a disco cover-version by Boney M. in 1978 that also topped the charts.

Sunday, 31 October 2021

7x7: happy halloween edition

robert the doll: Key West’s most cursed object—see also—via Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links (lots more to see here)  

zombie jamboree: Harry Belafonte’s actual ghoulish calypso number—notwithstanding the associations with the Banana Boat Song 

la calavera catrina: a sugar skull puppet presents a primer on Día de los Muertos  

westsonality: enjoy Paul Lynde’s 1976 Halloween Special with a cavalcade of guest stars  

respect the sabbath: periodic movements in the US to hold no Halloween on Sundays  

main title theme: the score for John Carpenter’s classic horror film Halloween 

lovecraft country: welcome to my metaverse—see previously

Monday, 25 October 2021

urgent fury

Along with a coalition of six Caribbean partner states, the United States embarked on this day in 1983 on its first and only military victory since partaking in World War II with its predawn invasion of Grenada, the island nation recently decolonized and independent from the United Kingdom. Characterised by outsiders as a Marxist-Leninist vanguard organization, the New Joint Endeavor for Welfare, Education and Liberation, the New JEWEL movement, chartered prior to attaining its self-governing status, had seized power in a peaceful coup from the first ministry installed after the UK’s departure.

Internal struggles among party leadership escalated to an armed confrontation that resulted in the killing of the movement's leader, Maurice Bishop, and a group of his supporters once the shooting began under still disputed and unresolved circumstances, and in turn elevated into an international crisis with the United States lobbying for immediate intervention.
Though transparently a pretext for the invasion and occupation, Ronald Reagan, wanting to forestall a repeat of the Iran Hostage Crisis, attributed his actions to “concerns over the six hundred US medical students on the island,” (the country offering medical school at affordable rates and presenting an attractive alternative to US tutition) and remained steadfast in his decision despite nearly universal condemnation and censure in the UN. Under the leadership of Major General Norman Schwartzkopf, Cuban presence was expelled to prevent further communist influence and a government friendly to capitalists' interest was propped up, though the prevailing narrative is still a contentious one and not authored by the Grenadians.

Saturday, 2 October 2021

how does it feel when you got no food?

Released mid-September as a single from their debut studio album, The Youth of Today, the song from the British-Jamaican reggae band topped the UK charts this week in 1982 with their bowdlerised cover of The Mighty Diamonds’ 1981 tune “Pass the Kutchie,” a slang term for a cannabis pipe from the patois for Dutch oven, which excised and substituted all drug references for poverty, launching the song’s popularity outside of the Caribbean community. The original line “How does it feel when you got no herb?” became the above but with dutchie itself becoming synonymous with a marijuana joint. Give me the music—make me jump and prance.

Monday, 9 August 2021

typically tropical

Best remembered for the 1975 Song of the Summer “Barbados,” reaching its pinnacle of popularity on this day those decades hence, the duo comprised of recording engineers Jess Calvert and Max West, the track was covered by the Vengaboys in 1999 as “We’re Going to Ibiza.” Typically Tropical performed the song on Top of the Pops, rounding out an album called Barbados Sky, and three years later received a song writing credit for the Hot Gossip disco number “I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper,” inspired by the Star Wars craze. “…Or are you like a droid—devoid of emotion?”

Wednesday, 7 July 2021

quasi-guerre

On this day in 1798, the United States Congress re-established the new country’s naval and marine forces and authorised the use of deadly force against France, by proxy for the most part in colonies in the Caribbean, which America had agreed to help protect from the British and the Dutch in perpetuity in gratitude for French assistance in securing independence. Against the backdrop of France’s own revolution, there was theoretical public support for the republican cause and political reform for their ally domestically but practically, America preferred to maintain a neutral stance that would allow the northern industrial states to continue trade with Britain which would otherwise be subject to embargo (see also) and the southern agricultural states did not care for the message that France was sending with ending the institution of chattel slavery. Negotiations fell apart—in what’s known as the XYZ Affair—and the US stopped payments on loans to France that had been used to finance their revolt and French privateers began to seize merchant vessels in American waters in retaliation. With minimal casualties but considerable American resources expropriated and lasting loss of export revenue, there was a cessation to the violence with the Convention of 1800 (the Treaty of Mortefontaine) status quo ante bellum.

Sunday, 27 June 2021

our lady of perpetual help

The Marian aspect as represented in a fifteenth-century Byzantine icon, the Cretan artefact held in a Roman monastery since, is venerated with devotionals on this day as patron-protector of Haiti, parts of Valencia, the Philippines and the diocese of Leeds. Against a gold background representing the Kingdom of God and that there was no place not filled with the holy spirit, the Hodegetria (Greek for ‘She who points the Way’) presents her child, frightened (symbolised by his losing one sandal) and buffeted by tiny archangels that are bearing instruments of the Passion, on the left the lance and sponge of the Crucifixion and on the right, a cross and nails. All figures are captioned: MP-ΘΥ, Mother of God; ΟΑΜ and ΟΑΓ Michael and Gabriel (with hortative modifiers) and the christogram IC-XC for Jesus Christ. The ritual novena prayers recited before an image of the icon include thanksgiving, petitions, prayers for the sick and divine praise.

Thursday, 17 June 2021

black to the future

Recommended by Fresh Air’s jazz critic Kevin Whitehead, we very much enjoyed discovering the musical stylings bandleader and saxophonist and clarinet player Shabaka Hutchings through his recent sessions leading a reed quartet called Sons of Kemet. Much more at the link above.

Thursday, 3 June 2021

obverse

Whilst I’ve been the recipient of my share of military unit coins with varying levels of swagger, ridiculousness and bombast, outside of the prematurely issued commemorative one issued for Trump’s summit with North Korea, I was unaware of the minting of “victory coins” by US government agencies and so was intrigued by this artefact from the CIA (via Super Punch) for memorialising the over-throw of the regime of Fidel Castro in April of 1961 through the arming of exiles and dissidents. The abject failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion raised tensions significantly between the USA and the USSR and led to the Cuba Missile Crisis and inchoate nuclear war.

Saturday, 8 May 2021

a night at the roxbury

Released on this day in 1993 as a single from the artist’s debut The Album, the Eurodance number from Kölner musician and choreographer Haddaway (written and arranged by Dieter Lünstedt and Karin van Haaren whom were waiting for the right singer to take on their project) enjoyed respectable but in comparison with its legacy and iconic status decades later subdued success when it first came out. Though a one-hit wonder, it’s defining of a certain era and transports one there instantly.

Friday, 2 April 2021

fuchsia splendens

Though our prized exemplar did not make it through the winter sadly, we did rather find it interesting to learn how this plant of the month, the fuchsia, died of an over-exposure of a different sort though its reputation is now somewhat rehabilitated. First described by a French friar and botanist under commission of Louis XIV stationed on Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) in the 1690s, the genus was named in honour of the German Renaissance researcher and professor Leonhart Fuchs of the previous century and considered one of the fathers of the field. In the following decades, it started to be cultivated in Europe and parallel the rise in cheap printing and lithography which resulting in multiple copies from the same prepared page easily reproduced without sacrificing the colour and detail that the flower highlighted and quickly became popular, and oversold eventually victim of its own success. While a number of enthusiasts and nurseries continued to experiment with breeding new types, public tastes were shifting, ultimately went for other novel plants including ferns, orchids, decorative palms and other ornamental plants.

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

to moscow chicks he was such a lovely dear

In a strange twist of fate, Russian mystic Grigori Rasputin (previously) was killed on this day (New Style, 1916) coinciding with the passing with the Aruban performer Bobby Farrell (2010), whom with the disco ensemble Boney M. produced possibly the finest musical homage in the 1978 hit single (see link above) from their album Nightflight to Venus, often dressed as the charismatic for concerts. Farrell died of heart failure whist on tour in Saint Petersburg. Here is a video from the variety show TopPop.

Monday, 21 December 2020

vèvè

Either derived from a common cosmogram or schema representing the constellations or from the Nsibidi syllabary used by some peoples of West and Central Africa taken to the Americas by enslaved diaspora (or a bit of both), the religious symbols used in voodoo ceremonies and rituals is comparable to our extensive vernacular of signs and sigils employed in demonology and serve a similar purpose—which makes the later magicking seem like fanboy appropriation. Described as a beacon, vèvès represent astral forces and compel the loa, lwa—that is the intermediary or medium—to do the bidding of the summoner, provided adequate sacrifice is offered. As with creating a mandala, the symbol is drawn on the flood with a mixture of sand and ash.

Monday, 14 December 2020

location scout oder deckname topas

Hearing that someone might be making a weekend of visiting nearby sites where films had been shot sounded like a fun activity and piqued my curiosity as to whether any might be in reach for me. I was surprised to come across this image from 1968 in the Stars and Stripes photographic archive of the filming of the 1969 release of the Cold War spy-thriller Topaz, the cinematic adaptation of Leon Uris’ novelisation of a real defection, the Sapphire Affair, that took place in 1962 directed by Alfred Hitchcock.  Here is the same building from last summer from a slightly different angle and perspective.
The story follows a French intelligence agent who becomes entangled in a spy ring and the geopolitical situation on the eve of the Cuba Missile Crisis. A high-ranking Soviet officer reveals that nuclear warheads will be placed in Cuba (mirroring the US installation in Turkey) and he and his family are evacuated to Wiesbaden. Filming also takes place in Copenhagen, Washington, DC, Paris, New York with Havana scenes filmed on a studio lot.